Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction
“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien
My current work is an investigation of the regional social structure through landscape and townscape. How do these “places” relate to personal identity: my own and those living in them or passing through them?
My art reflects the environment back to neighbors. I love the conversations that start from common recognition of specific places shown in the image.
I am uneasy about crossing borders: personal, political, geographic, social and ethnic. My work becomes an excuse to get out and about in places I probably don’t belong. With my art, I stick my little toe into the lives of others and try to break out of my own narrow world-view.
Also see tourist or flaneur. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fl%C3%A2neur
Although I learned to draw and paint in my school years I primarily did photography for my early career. I have long emerged from the darkroom and shoot digitally. I was an early adopter of the Mac computer — first as a typesetter but I also used drawing and photo software as they became available.
Photography as become by drawing tool of choice. I start a composition by extensively photographing my subject from different angles or times of day. For panoramic compositions I take a series of photos as individual segments. These segments are then merged into a seamless image using Photoshop. When I started this process back in the nineties, putting panoramas together was very labor intensive now it’s automatic.
In some situations, I use high dynamic range techniques to increase detail visibility in the shadow and highlight areas. This involves taking several exposures for each image. It is possible for me to have 12 to 24 images to merge into a single panorama.
I lately think about the additive and subtractive nature of making art. I constantly add to my library of images but I only choose my favorites to paint. As most artists do, I may explore many subjects for everyone I print.
Chosen images are cropped to heighten the visual interest and meaning. Cropping a wide panorama gives me great flexibility in composition. I then print using my Epson ink jet printer using pigment inks on canvas or rag paper.
Several years ago I was interested in returning to drawing from life. I was unsatisfied with painting on the computer or using artistic filters in Photoshop but this was an important step to visualizing a new technique. I started drawing on my photos as a transition away from the camera/computer and towards more handwork.
In my studio, I am hand-painting on photographic prints with oil pastels – basically better quality crayons. Painting becomes both a subtractive process: obscuring the distinctive texture of the photographic image, and an additive process: painting with hand-drawn lines and textures. The results, my work, seem to be neither photograph nor painting but cause me to consider their relationship. The tension caused by the “cheat” of painting over a photograph feeds my oppositional defiant disorder.
I also straddle the split between the unique image and the print multiple. I don’t usually do a series of paintings of the same image but I do re-photograph the paintings and then printing reproductions.
I just saw a video trailer of the new season of Art 21 on PBS. Featured is Rackstraw Downes, who does work similar to mine but uses a traditional process of “plein-air” painting from life outdoors.
See also “Stephen King’s Wang” for a discussion on using word processing in writing literature and “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”
I tussle with ideas about the easy reproducibility of images through digital/mechanical prints and the Internet and what it means to use these tools as an artist. I try to be upfront about the technology I use creating my work because it forces me and viewers to confront these ideas in dialog. For every new exhibit, I rework the term I use to describe my medium — my latest is “oil pastel over print on paper.” Sometimes the technique seems like a cheat but that may only be a generational thing.
On a wider view of art and technology: is there a role for a specialist artist when technology has allowed all of us to simply create beautiful images to document our existence and communicate our feelings?
I am trying to be self-critical but appreciate that I may not grasp the meaning of my own work.
William Lloyd Duncan
1012 South Shore Road
Stockholm, Maine, 04783